Health News of Saturday, 15 September 2012
The Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) on Friday tasked gender advocates to intensify public education on the safe and legal abortion services available to women.
“We need to make more of an effort to let women know that in some cases, such as rape, incest and medical necessity, abortion is legal in Ghana. There are safe and legal abortion services available to women for these cases – the problem is that there is a lack of knowledge of them.
“Widespread education about the dangers of unsafe abortions is vital to ensure that women do not use this option if they fall pregnant as well as removal of the stigma surrounding abortion is imperative to ensure that women are able to seek out and find safe and legal options if abortion is required”, HRAC stated in a statement to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
According to the statement signed on behalf of Nana Oye Lithur, HRAC Executive Director, Ms Taniele Gofers, Communications Officer, noted that safe and legal services need to be available and accessible to the women who need them, with correct licensing and qualified staff.
These improvements will help in reducing the shocking figures, that “almost all unsafe abortions take place in developing countries, and this is where 98 per cent of abortion-related deaths occur” (World Health organization (WHO) Population Reference Bureau ‘Abortion – Facts and Figures’ 2011).
The HRAC’s statement was in reaction to a revelation that Joshua Grah, the medical assistant, who has been accused of conducting illegal abortions and having sexual relations with his clients under the guise of ‘medical treatment’, describing the act as despicable.
“When women fall pregnant, they lack options, education about which options are legally available to them, and knowledge of correct and safe abortion procedures.
“This lack of knowledge allowed a man like Grah, parading as a doctor, to violate them through sexual assault in Ghana...without education about their options, women will remain vulnerable to men like Joshua Grah”.
According to news reports, Joshua Grah, was able to take advantage of women because they had little knowledge of correct abortion procedures or were hiding due to the stigma attached to abortion in Ghana.
Just as troubling is the number of years that Grah was allegedly able to operate without the Universal Mission Clinic, of which he was the administrator, being properly registered or licensed by the Private Hospitals and maternity Homes Board of the Ministry of Health.
By his own admission, the clinic operated for 15 years while ‘waiting’ for registration. This is in direct violation of the Private Hospitals and Maternity Homes Act (1958) which states, in Section 7, that, “No person shall establish or conduct a private hospital or maternity home unless the private hospital or maternity home is registered under the provisions of this Act.”
“The Act clarifies that a private hospital is ANY “building or other premises where provision is made for medical attention or nursing facilities gratuitously or for reward and used or intended to be used for the reception of persons suffering from any sickness, infirmity of injury.”
Under this definition, the Universal Mission Clinic required registration and licensing before it delivered medical services, and before Grah began to conduct illegal abortions.
Grah also allegedly presented himself as a qualified doctor, allowing him to use the influence of authority to convince patients to trust him and his methods.
According to HRAC, in allowing these violations to occur, the Ministry of Health has endangered the lives of women in Ghana, and exposed them to potential abuse.
HRAC therefore calls for a more stringent monitoring of medical clinics and services, so that women, and indeed all citizens of Ghana can be assured that they are in safe and capable hands for all their medical requirements.